"Life Inside Out" is a gentle, poignant drama whose heart and head are squarely in the right place. Engaging, naturalistic performances and nicely explored real-world issues add to this absorbing film's down-to-earth appeal.
Maggie Baird stars as Laura, a suburban wife and mother of three teen boys who's bumping up against trying times: She can't find a job; husband Mike (David Cowgill) has the breadwinner blues; and their 14-year-old son, Shane (Finneas O'Connell), has become supremely sullen. Devoted as she is to her family, which also includes her elderly father (William Dennis Hunt) and needy, scrapbooking sister (Lori Nasso), Maggie clearly needs a jump-start.
That's when she reunites with an old friend: a guitar she hasn't picked up since she was 19 — since her beloved mother died. A bit of new strumming and songwriting leads Maggie to perform at an open-mike night (shot at L.A.'s Cafe-Club Fais Do-Do), with Shane reluctantly tagging along. She's rusty, of course, but inspired.
The blossoming of Maggie and Shane and their subsequent bonding over a newly shared love of music is hardly unpredictable. But between the unfussily observant script by actresses Baird and Nasso, tender direction by Jill D'Agnenica, sympathetic turns — and some lovely song stylings — by Baird and O'Connell, the movie feels far more essential than might be expected.
A beautiful demonstration of a mother's love concludes this special little film on a hugely touching note.
"Life Inside Out"
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena.